Just over one week ago Josh was in London for the 2022 edition of Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show. Under new ownership and management, the show moved from its former location in Bristol, England to the Lee Valley Velo Park in Stratford of East London. With three days of track racing, talks, food, hangs, coffee, enviable new products, and—of course—hundreds of eclectic and beautiful bicycles on display, the show was a major success for the new organizers, exhibitors, and attendees.
Let’s dive straight into Part One of our recap below with a look at bikes from a bevy of builders: Sturdy Cycles, Quirk Cycles, Donhou Bicycles, Sideways, Lord Cycles, Stayer Cycles, Ted James Designs, and Auckland Cycle Works…
I’ll admit, I’ve been a big fan of Petor Georgallou for some time now. For even the occasional reader of this site, Petor hardly needs an introduction. He is (*was*) one of the most consistently creative framebuilders I’ve seen and his photography and writing skills are some of the best ever published by this website (examples here, here, and here). Over the past year, during my time as Editor, I’ve gotten to know Petor fairly well as he’s been transitioning away from framebuilding to run his cinema lighting business and spend more time documenting the European cycling scene for us. When he told me that he and his business partner Josh Bullock had purchased the Bespoked show and planned to host in London this year, and therefore would need to offload some of the documentation duties to leave room for the varied and many demands of the organizer role, I jumped on buying my plane ticket. I was off to London.
As you can extrapolate from looking at some of Petor’s bikes (examples here, here, and here) and reading any of his stories linked above, he’s an interesting fella. Never in a million years would I think to buy a rabbit on my way to profile a framebuilder and proceed to grill it on an open fire while camping in the woods. But, Petor did and made some amazing images while out there. He’s a trained artist with an MA in Sculpture from RCA. He used to live in one of East London’s canal barges until it sank, causing him to move into his car for a while. His car was a hearse, though, so there was plenty of room. Most of his adult life has been spent working around bikes, either in shops or building frames; he was once London’s worst bike messenger. His favorite job was working in a video store (think Clerks starring Mr. Bean). He’s photographed auction catalogs, projected advertisements onto buildings, and was a fill-in manager at an animation studio. These days, Bespoked is his full-time job, but he still picks up cinema lighting gigs, preferring to work on commercials. Mayonnaise commercials.
He’s deeply passionate about cycling, cycling history, and the relationship between past and future. And that’s why he and Josh wanted to buy Bespoked and make it into one of the best bike shows in the world. I won’t bore you with all of the gritty details, but building an expo basically from scratch is a ton of work. It took nearly six months of planning and construction to navigate the intricacies of a complicated venue, build booths, design lighting, and book exhibitors. And, aside from not having the location in the venue stands they wanted for the talks as originally planned, the final three-day product was wonderful.
Since the expo was inside the Lee Valley Velodrome, there was track cycling going on around us for the entire weekend, with a framebuilder race on Saturday and a couple of pro races on Sunday. The layout was a blessing and a curse, though, because while it was super cool to be standing amongst active cycling, getting anything in and out of the building was quite laborious. I spent many hours looking for a good location in the facility to document bikes with some serious trial and error along the way (thanks for your patience Kelly, Pi, Lewis, and Tom!) but ended up locating a perfect concrete wall on the exterior cycling track.
The larger point here, though, is that it was a lot of hard and monotonous work to haul everything in and out of the building, both for event volunteers and exhibitors, but the community came together to make it happen. To put the undertaking into perspective: There were 96 booths and easily 300 bikes, probably more. Petor and Josh designed and had about 50% of the booths built and, thanks to sponsors like SRAM, rented them out at a “subsidized” rate to promote access and make it easier on folks traveling from outside London.
And there was a LOT happening. This was the first year for the Bespoked SRAM Inclusivity Scholarship that supported four builders at the show. SRAM also collaborated with Album Coffee to offer a roast from the region or Rwanda serviced by World Bicycle Relief with all proceeds going back to WBR. Schwalbe and SQLab respectively sponsored a press room at the event and a build-off. UK clothing brand Albion stitched up some special musette bags for event volunteers. The meerkats at Dynaplug supplied Pill plugger kits colored by Ashley Annodized It on bases made by local London mental health project Men’s Shed, and a wonderful tribute to legendary designer/builder Mike Burrows.
I’ll offer a bit more color on the various aspects of the show tomorrow, but without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the beautiful bikes on display at this year’s show paired with descriptions from each builder. Note that I pulled bikes aside entirely at random as I walked the show isles. I wish I could have documented every single one, but there were just too many. Fortunately, however, photographer Ben Broomfield was set up in a studio and actually did photograph pretty much ALL of the bikes. We’ll share a link to his gallery on the Bespoked site as soon as it’s ready. Enjoy!
Sturdy Cycles Titanium Éimear Time Trial
The Time trial model, named Éimear (an Irish name meaning ‘swift’, pronounced ‘ee-mur’), has been in development for the best part of 3 years now. The UK has a strong domestic time trialling scene and it’s been one of my favourite disciplines of the sport ever since I started riding and, as a design exercise, it’s one that really concentrates all of my favourite ‘nerdy’ topics. I wanted to offer customers the benefit of custom fit and geometry for this application but was determined that in so doing they would not need to compromise on the aerodynamic performance of the bike which is inevitably a critical aspect of all time trial equipment. See more from Sturdy Cycles here.
Over the course of the development I invested a lot of resources into repeated cycles of simulation followed by real-world validation on the performance of the frame. This is a familiar cycle to me and one that is common to the development of all of my bikes but the inclusion of the aerodynamic focus certainly added to the complexity. I am really proud of the results though and, whilst I am not one to place claims of quantifiable efficiency savings vs one bike or another (to be honest I simply do not have the resources to conduct enough suitably thorough comparative studies), I am confident that the bike will stand its ground in what its an impressively competitive field.
This build in particular has been tweaked towards my personal preference for relatively technical and undulating courses. The weight is a respectable (for a TT bike) 8.1kg and I am really pleased with the handling on high speed, twisty descents. Like all of my other builds it features a full complement of all of the parts and components that I produce from cranks and chainrings thought to brake lockrings and through axles.
The cockpit is partially comprised of a system made by Wattshop which offers a great range of easy adjustability so that front end positioning can be adjusted to suit the demands of one particular course or another (and whilst I did lust over the thought of a fully integrated hour record style system during the development of the bike I simply could not overlook the importance of adjustability in this area for optimal real world use of the bike!).
Quirk Cycles Mamator All-Road
This year for Bespoked, I brought our newly updated Mamtor All-Road bike which sees, for the first time, our unique 3D printed seat-cluster and dropouts, which are paired with the Enve integrated hidden-cable system. To achieve this, I created my own oversized 54 ID headtube to accommodate the 1.5″ bearing needed on the top of the assembly. This design adds strength by placing the bearings inside the headtube and sheds weight from the assembly, overall creating a technically beautiful and streamlined multipurpose all-road bike.
Known for his fantastic finishes and paint designs, I approached Velofique Designs to produce one of her unique abstract finishes for this build. Inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi (where broken pottery is beautified through gold leaf repair), Velofique has created an otherworldly tableau of hand-painted landscapes of golden waterfalls and trees. The finish is achieved through several layered experimental processes involving liquid masks to hand-painted techniques.
Those with a keen eye will spot that the 3D printing doesn’t stop at the frame with the cranks being from Sturdy Cycles and printed in titanium. These have been paired with SRAM Red rings to round off the AXS wireless groupset. A build with an Enve cockpit would only be complete with Enve wheels, in this case, the SES 3.4. The build also came with a set of Enve AG28 650b wheels and 42mm tyres for when rougher roads are on the cards. But would you ever dare take this off road? See more from Quirk Cycles here.
Donhou Bicycles Utility
The Utility can be your daily, plus your weekender! It’s a fun full wheeled bike, tuned to carry a load, making it a useful machine for those that want a bike that can work hard for them, but aren’t quite in need of/ready for a full blown cargo bike.
This bike is kind of woven into the history of the Bespoked show, our first ever town bike, a bike very similar to what you see here won Best of Show at the inaugural Bespoked, with some very innovative security features (a locking headset top cap and labyrinth style seatpost!). A few years later one of our prototypes also won Best Utility and some of the features we have worked on for our show bikes have now found their way onto the Utility. Over this ten year period, while we’ve been working on this project, it became obvious that it needs to be able to grow and adapt with you as your needs and lifestyle change. Bolt on cable guides allow for tidy cabling whether you run this geared, single speed, or even geared with a dropper.
Yep, it has internal dropper routing too. There’s a full set of rack and fender mounts and some neat wheel retaining washers that lock a QR wheel in place in the horizontal dropouts, giving you plenty of wheel options for when you’re running it geared. Probably, most importantly though, it has an integrated bell mount!
Importantly, being a bike for the city we also wanted to get this to a sensible price point, making it a realistic option for daily use. There’s 3 sizes and 2 colours. Of course we couldn’t help ourselves and there’s also an option for stainless badges, but you might have to wait a little longer for those. There’s options for integrated rack and fenders too. See more from Donhou Bicycles here.
Donhou Bicycles Babypacker
I built this for my daughter a couple of years back. Its cool little design feature is the use of an inverted headset. Watching kids crash on these things, it was mostly always slow speed, with bars turning and them landing with their chest on the back of the stem. That hurts! So we flipped everything around, allowing us to remove the edge and bolts from the back of the stem and making it a little less painful when they do slam.
I left it raw and with knobbly tires and a full coat of rust it was the baddest bike at nursery. But it was starting to get a bit pitted, so was time for some paint. Ersi had started talking about going on her first camping trip, so the timing was perfect to add some mounts and turn this thing into a mini babypacker!
We partnered with our friendly neighbourhood bag maker, ENA Bags to produce these bags and these are available to order too from the Donhou store for any other wayfaring toddlers! See more from Donhou Bicycles here.
Sideways 003 Gravel Bike
The Sideways 003 is not my third frame but it is my third fully finished frame under the Sideways name, built in my spare bedroom in North Shields, near Newcastle.
This frame is a gravel frame because I have made road bikes in the past and felt like trying something different that would be challenging and allow me to show the range of what I am able to achieve with carbon (I am a shameless trend follower and I genuinely enjoy all the riding that this style opens up to a rider). The geometry for this frame is probably more cyclocross than gravel as I have been riding my cross frames as gravel bikes for years. It’s an excitable build that wants to go fast, so it can be used for long day trips but it really wants to be ploughing into whatever track you can throw it into.
Some of the liveliness of this build is due to my own taste in geometry but some of it is due to the XPLR equipment that SRAM provided me with for the SRAM X Bespoked Inclusivity Scholarship. The moto style rims, suspension forks and flared bars make for an experience that is a far cry from the cross bikes I used to ride. Another fun bit of kit is the Selle Italia Model Y that is produced using more eco friendly ideas and doesn’t use glue to reduce the harmful chemicals used, I’m pretty sure it was only released a week before Bespoked. The headset was given to me by Paul from RifeWorks and I’m really enjoying it!
The frame is fully designed in house (literally) and uses carbon fibre that was primarily destined for the bin; in particular this frame is built from offcuts from Olympic 29er and 49er skiff boats. I designed a tapered headtube that transitions into a big downtube to create a confident, strong steering and pedalling input. While the toptube tapers towards the seattube to allow seated riding to not transfer too many surprise shocks through the rider. I designed dropped chainstays partly as a challenge to myself and partly because I wanted to keep everything short and quick. The chainstays are 430mm long and the wheelbase is around 1050mm. Both of these vary with the sliding dropouts, which are designed to accept Paragon Machine Works rocker dropout inserts.
I’m still a fledgling builder so whether this is really making the most of what gravel can allow, I don’t know. But I feel this build embodies a lot of my road background and as far as I am concerned, it’s an absolute wonder to ride. Long live gravel I say.
To add a quick word about being at Bespoked; It was my first time there and my first time showing my work on such a large “stage”. I have wanted to do this all my life and without the support of Bespoked and SRAM I would never have had this opportunity. There are some crazy builders out there who are pushing the envelope to incredible levels and I can’t wait to get stuck into my next build and join in with all the fun and games. See more from Sideways here.
Stayer OMG for Ultra Distance Scholarship
Stayer Cycles is a vital sponsor of the UDS, and in a bid to help fundraise some crucial cash, provided three OMG mountain bikes for a one-time-only, wicked prize draw for some impressive custom bike glamnificence. The OMG is Stayer’s anything-goes mtb frame. The three OMG frames – a small, a medium, and a large – were built up in collaboration with three different bike enthusiasts/builders each imagining the OMG in their own creative vision. All three of these builds are up for prize draw now until November 18th, 2022 and you can get yourself a ticket here.
One of these builds in particular received a lot of attention for its skillful finish by designer and maker, Lewis Toghill. He opted to get his large steel OMG copper plated and dove into the alchemical depths of copper verdigris effects.
From Lewis: The copper plating initially drew inspiration from old nickel and chrome plated BMX bikes; these started a discussion about what else it might be possible to plate the frame with. Stumbling upon a lovely book on metal patinas and architectural finishes, I was increasingly drawn to copper as a material capable of aging and weathering in all sorts of beautiful and interesting ways – there was something about the representation of a material in different states that I really found appealing.”
“Here, the intention was to use oxidation and patination techniques to begin to show some of the different states the material can exist in, as well as to highlight some of the fabrication processes used to make the bike. For example, by polishing much of the rear triangle, the lovely wishbone seat stays and CNC toolpaths on the chainstay yoke are articulated, along with the weld beads joining it all together. Elsewhere, towards the front of the bike, the scarred, blistered remains of Battersea Arts Centre are referenced in the highly patinated verdigris fade.” See more from Stayer here.
Lord Cycles Jackson Pollock-inspired ANTUR
As Lord Cycles, we are based in Cardiff, Wales creating made-to-measure steel bikes that are inspired by the riding, landscapes and experiences found throughout Wales.
James’ bike is based around our ANTUR gravel model, which is part of the Adventure Collection. This acted as the foundation for the bike design which has been molded to match the brief set by the customer who was after the ability to run single speed as well as gears and wanted internal cable and dynamo routing to keep things looking clean and to stop cables interfering when the bike is loaded with bags.
Paint, carried out by Jack Kingston, has been heavily influenced by the American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock who would drip, drizzle and throw paint onto his canvas to create his ‘drip paintings’. This playful, expressive and free from rules approach can be said to reflect the attitude of riding gravel bikes.
Each of the colours of the frame mirror the frame bags, bar roll, saddle bag and snack pouch that James uses for his bikepacking trips, we thought that it was important to choose colours that were not completely random but had a hidden meaning and gave the bike that extra personal touch. The N-1 relates to the fact that this bike has replaced both of his current builds that were no longer getting much use, it goes against the grain of the industry standard of N+1 which I quite like. See more from Lord Cycles here.
Ted James Designs Ti BMX
This bmx build was for a customer Dave who you’d probably consider to be one of the older generation of bmx riders. He’s more ‘mid school’ era and, like me, usually not the best at the park but still trying, riding regularly, and having fun.
Dave is a self confessed lover of flashy things, so wasn’t after another middle of the road build hence the choice of titanium frame and fork. He’s also a regular mountain biker so is keen on the power of the disk brake. With the brakes here, we’ve gone for 120mm rotor to keep it out of the way. With a 20” wheel, these braked have more than enough power.
I chose quite thick wall tubing and machined all the parts , dropouts, seattube , bottom bracket, headtube and one-piece steerer with integrated crown race and compression cap thread. It has a simple brushed finish with anodised logos and the acid etched shield headbadge.
I supplied it with the Chris king headset then Dave built it up with profile racing wheels and cranks from his mate Gav at Mode BMX shop. Hope brake and pedals and lots more top kit round it out. I’ve given it a try and it feels awesome. See more from Ted James Designs here.
Auckland Cycle Works Marra
The Kolarp suspension design came about as a result of experimentation. When I started, I thought there would only be about a 5% chance that I’d discover something that would work. I didn’t really expect that I’d find something that was genuinely amazing. But that’s the thing with innovation – if you don’t try, you never find out.
The Kolarp suspension design does lots of things differently. The linkages both rotate the opposite way to the swingarm, which gives it a very non-linear axle path! Very diagonal (approx. 50degrees) for the first half of the suspension travel, then vertical for the second half. The position of the high-idler on the lower link allowed me to completely tune out pedal bob, and also completely eliminate pedal kickback. The diagonal axle path works amazingly under climbing, as the bike doesn’t sink deeper into it’s travel as you point the bike uphill.
It easily absorbs square-edged hits under full pedal load, finding traction and maintaining momentum on technical climbs. Also, the braking anti-rise works brilliantly with the 4 bar linkage; it remains active, but keeps your CofG lower. Giving you more control, more grip, better braking! The prototyping is finished. Now I need to tidy up the details, make a finished bike and stick a price tag on it! Coming up: learn what I can about the short travel Reiver, and make an eMarra. See more from Auckland Cycle Works here.
And that’s a wrap for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with another packed gallery from Bespoked!